State of the county’s air

New committee will guide officials in reducing contaminant levels

To address the ongoing issue of air quality in the region, experts and community advocates have launched the Camden County Air Quality Committee, assembled with the goal of providing guidance to county commissioners and municipal and regional partners on how to reduce contaminant levels.

“There are a lot of factors that contribute to poor air quality,” said Commissioner Jeffrey Nash. “Some of them are going to be harder to address and will require working closely with our regional partners. That said, there are actions that we can take here in Camden County, including education, electrification, monitoring and thinking outside the box when it comes to addressing issues like food waste.”    

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The American Lung Association has released the 2024 State of the Air report to measure air quality and the impact that pollution has on public health. It measures a three-year rolling average for the years 2020 to 2022, so the report does not include data from last year.

According to the report, Camden County improved from a D to a C for ground level ozone, a type of pollutant that can cause respiratory problems and other issues in young children, the elderly and those with asthma. But its score in the report’s daily measure for fine particulate pollution – a mix of tiny solid and liquid particles in the air we breathe – dropped from an A to a B.

“As we see in our most recent State of the Air report, climate change is making air pollution more likely to form and more difficult to clean up,” explained Michael Seilback, assistant vice president of national advocacy for the American Lung Association. “In New Jersey, there are actions we can and must take to improve air quality, including building electrification and reducing air pollution from the transportation and power sector.

“We appreciate our partners at the Camden County Air Quality Committee and their focus on electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.”

The committee will focus on working with municipalities, schools, hospitals, businesses, state agencies and regional partners across the following pillars: fleet electrification and charging infrastructure, solid waste operations, regional engagement, green space, indoor air quality and finance and funding mechanisms.

“Improving and enhancing our air quality is paramount to protect and strengthen the health and welfare of our community,” noted Commissioner Jonathan Young. “That said, we know that this is a significant challenge based on a number of variables that are at work and are outlined by the ALA (lung association) report.

“We have a moral obligation to create a road map that we can use to resolve and remedy antiquated practices of the past that will deliver direct benefits to our residents.”

“Attaining our health based National Ambient Air Quality Standards and mitigating climate change requires a holistic and collaborative approach to emissions reduction,” observed Peg Hanna, director of the Division of Climate Change Mitigation and Monitoring for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“Through the work of the Camden County Air Quality Committee, along with a variety of in- state and out-of-state efforts, we’re making progress on a healthier New Jersey, as shown by the latest American Lung Association report.”

“Poor air quality across South Jersey and Camden County is a silent killer and triggers tens of thousands of asthma attacks for residents suffering from respiratory ailments,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Our air quality is worse in our more urban inner suburbs and Camden city, especially because of the prevalence of highways and the smog pollution triggered by our cars and trucks.

“The Camden County Air Quality Committee provides a hyper-local and state partnership alliance, especially with a focus on electrifying our cars, trucks, and buses to finally clean up our air to benefit our lungs and the climate.”

“The Camden County Air Quality Committee is doing the necessary work to tackle and improve air quality in this region of the state,” said Renee Pollard, co-chair of Tri-County Sustainability Environmental Justice. “Working and collaborating with partnering agencies, our hope is to improve air quality and enhance better health outcomes while continuing to improve our annual grades reported by the American Lung Association.”

“Air pollution can be both a local and larger regional issue,” Sean Greene, manager of the Office of Freight and Clean Transportation for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, pointed out. “DVRPC is pleased to join the Camden County Air Quality Committee to help bring partners together to improve air quality in the communities in Camden County and beyond.”

“One in five premature deaths every year are caused by fossil-fuel pollution,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cerceo, director of Climate Health at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. “In New Jersey, more than 17,600 deaths annually are directly linked to air pollution, based on research from Harvard School of Public Health, and Camden County routinely gets failing grades for our air quality.

“The Camden County Air Quality Committee (CCAQ) is dedicated to improving those numbers and the health of our communities.”

For more information about the State of the Air report, visit: https://www.lung.org/research/sota/city-rankings/states/new-jersey/camden

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